Developing an archaeological method for authoring sound in a 4D space, MSc thesis.
Publication date 2001-09-01
Topics Virtual Reality, Archaeology, Stratigraphy, Audio, Authoring, Unreal engine, Programming, Thesis
Thesis submitted in partial requirements for the degree of MSc Computer Aided Graphical Technology Applications (CAGTA), September 2001, to the School of Computing and Mathematics, Teesside University, Middlesbrough, North England. Supervisor: Clive Fencott.
The ambition to create immersive audio-augmented environments raises problematic issues of time in a spatial environment, highlighting the disparity between temporally framed sound and interactive agency. Initial research into interactive virtual environments reveals that the user creates their own individual narrative as a result of their movement through the space, accumulating fragments of narrative to create meaning. Such a process suggests a parallel to the actions of the archaeologist: charting and gathering items of interest from an excavation, to create an interpretation of history or agency at the site. This thesis identifies archaeological stratigraphy as a practice that records complex spacio-temporal paradigms, and explores its relevance as a methodology to assist sound design in a 4D environmental space. Based upon the premise that the author of a time-based soundscape creates a database of narrative fragments and clues for the user to find, the paper proposes a distinct design process that reverses the excavation procedure, and re-imagines stratigraphical layers as successive phases of sound in the present tense.
The Unreal 3D engine and editor are chosen as a test environment. Several multi-functional classes are designed and programmed using UnrealScript - similar to a combination of Java and C++. These classes offer a variety of options for playing sounds, manage the passage of phases, and allow for interactive agency. Both theory and code are applied to construct a creative virtual environment, illustrating the arrangement of consecutive and consequential sounds into data-lists. Ultimately this 'archive' is placed within the Editor environment, to create an experimental soundscape.
Experience of production infers that computer-generated stratigraphical sequences are a useful step towards flexible creation and visualisation of relativity between units of narrative content. Likewise the multi-functional classes fulfill the purpose of translating these relations in the terms of agency, although 'real' time remains to be addressed satisfactorily. It is recognised that further temporal relations have to be identified beyond the present approach that accounts for sounds two nodes of existence – the beginning and the end. The lack of malleability of the record during run-time, indicates next step research is necessary to consider programmable behaviours or AI attributed to the sound actor, and how such features would develop narrative potential.
However, the overriding opinion gathered from the investigation is that although the metaphor of archaeological record should be treated as a state of transference and modification, rather than empirical and static, it represents a structure of narrative potential that can be released by the interactor's agency.
2.2Sound design and meaning in interactive virtual environments
2.3LISTEN: audio augmented environments
2.4Author and Interactor
3Archaeological method and theory
3.1Representations and the archaeological record
3.2.2Phasing and sequencing
3.2.3Artefacts, dating and chronology
4.1Applying the stratigraphical process to sound design
4.2Enabling agency and an individual narrative
5Application in Virtual Space
5.1Unreal Editor: A tool for authoring virtual environments
5.2Scripting archaeological sound actors
5.2.1Existing actors, methods and structures using UnrealScript
6Design method and production example: 'Garden Monologue'
6.2Objective and content themes
6.3Phasing and sequencing to data lists
6.4Transferring the record into Unreal Editor
6.5Analysis of archaeological classes in design and real-time
6.6Issues for further development
6.7On-going content creation
A.Custom-made UnrealScript class examples (full code): ArchaeSoundTrigger, PhaseChange.
B.'Garden Monologue' Sound Data Lists
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